MAMAMOO live in Seoul: an underwhelming first global concert for K-pop’s coolest girl group

May 1, Seoul: The band's first global concert doesn't live up to their stellar reputation

Since the pandemic halted real concerts, K-pop has led the way when it comes to livestream shows. New technologies have blown our minds while the likes of BLACKPINK have proved what can be done with recreating the heart of IRL gigs: no flashy gimmicks involved. For their LiveNOW livestream tonight (May 1), MAMAMOO aim for the latter, but can’t quite hit the notes needed to pull it off.

It’s not the group’s fault. The four members – Hwasa, Solar, Wheein and Moonbyul – give their usual charisma-filled performances that, visually at least, feel like you’re being invited into their little gang. But strangely for a band known for regularly killing it with their vocal performances, today’s event features their voices not live but pre-recorded, heavily buffed up in the production. Not only does it feel jarring to see them lip-syncing badly, but it removes what is often so great about MAMAMOO’s live turns – the freewheeling spontaneity they sprinkle over every stage.

There are many gripes to be had with the show – including its supposed New York theme consisting of a few street signs and crosswalks – but there are some highlights too. It feels like a bold move for the four-piece to kick everything off with ‘Dingga’, one of 2020’s most infectious songs; almost akin to The Killers opening festival sets with ‘Mr Brightside’. But, as with the Las Vegas band, you soon remember MAMAMOO’s back catalogue is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to bops. Proof, if it’s needed, comes in the form of today’s setlist – the likes of the retro-pop of ‘Um Ah Oh Yeh’, the slinky ‘gogobebe’ and ‘HIP’’s earworm licks are all represented.

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MAMAMOO
MAMAMOO CREDIT: LiveNOW/MAMAMOO

MAMAMOO might be one of the coolest girl groups around right now, but part of their appeal is their ability to get goofy. On ‘Waggy’ the group show their playful side, putting their paws up as they mimic the dogs barking on the track. On ‘Um Ah Oh Yeh’, Hwasa mimes playing the sax and their interactions throughout provide light-hearted respite from the frustrations of the rest of the production.

This is the group’s first global concert, but the thinking behind it feels distinctly non-international. A large chunk of the show is taken up by breaks for the members to chat, but not even perfunctory subtitles are provided on the premiere stream for each region. Other livestream concerts can – and have – offer real-time translations, so this show lacking any makes the worldwide audience it’s billed for feel like an afterthought.

MAMAMOO’s livestream show does manage to end on a slight high. Moving from the studio set up some heavily graffitied stairs to a rooftop overlooking Seoul, they deliver a three-song finale that in other circumstances would feel like the cherry on top. ‘AYA’ sounds as alluring as ever, ‘Egotistic’ bemoans a selfish partner and ‘Starry Night’ caps things off on a softer, spellbinding tip. Overall, though, it’s an underwhelming show for a group – and fandom – who deserve a lot better.

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